Traveling on Business – Bahamas Business Guide

Business Guide

Bahamas ‘Business customs: The national language of The Bahamas is
English, sometimes spoken with a distinctive local accent and the use
of colorful local expressions. Due to the proximity of The Bahamas to
the US and the extensive familiarity of most Bahamians with Americans
and American culture, business customs tend to be similar to those in
the United States

Business dress is more formal in The Bahamas than
elsewhere in the Caribbean or in Florida; a business suit and tie is
recommended for men and conservative business dress for women. Business
attire generally follows the standards of the northeastern United
States. Bahamians shake hands upon meeting, sometimes exchange business
cards, and address first-time business acquaintances by their last
names. Conversations generally move to a first-name basis a bit more
slowly than in the United States. Firm appointments for business
meetings are advisable. Although Bahamians are not punctual for
meetings, foreign visitors should be punctual.

In addition, The Bahamas is very much a consensus-driven society,
in which people often disguise personal feelings beneath a surface
cordiality. Business meetings in The Bahamas tend to be very pleasant
and Bahamians often end a meeting with an air of agreement even if real
differences remain. Thus, Bahamian partners may still retain some
reservations even after meetings that ended with firm handshakes and
pleasantries. Bahamians at the middle levels of business or government
must often gain final approval from more senior officials.

Bahamian businesses tend to operate on a tighter financial margin
than their American counterparts, often juggling financing from one
commitment to another. Therefore, for initial or large sales, a
businessman should require a deposit against future payment for goods
or services delivered, and expect that some delays may occur with
subsequent payments.

Business lunches are common in The Bahamas, and invitations to
discuss matters over lunch in a quiet restaurant are common practice.
Bahamians tend not to drink very much at business lunches and usually
expect the lunch to last between an hour and an hour-and-a-half.
Business dinners are relatively rare, and Bahamians do not generally
invite new acquaintances to their homes. When they do so, dinners at
the homes of well-to-do Bahamians tend to be elaborate and formal
affairs, at which business attire for men and conservative evening wear
for women is appropriate. A small gift for the hostess, such as
flowers, and a follow-up thank you note are appropriate

Acceptable topics of conversation include: sports; the tourist
business; the beauty of the islands; the weather; and unique or
distinctive aspects of Bahamian culture such as the local cuisine,
junkanoo, local music, art, architecture, and history. While Bahamians
are comfortable with discussing most topics, visitors to The Bahamas
should avoid discussing drug trafficking and race relations during
initial contacts.

Since much of Bahamian social life revolves around church, an
invitation to a church service is a sign of personal respect and
affection. Many churches in The Bahamas have proud traditions of gospel
choir singing, and church services can be quite lively. Dress at church
services is usually formal with conservative business suits for men and
colorful, sometimes elaborate dresses for women.

Travel information and visas:

American citizens do not require a passport or visa to enter The
Bahamas, but proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or voter
registration card accompanied by a photo ID is required, as well as a
return ticket to the United States. In mid-1996 there were no current
travel restrictions for The Bahamas. American citizens traveling to an
area where they may have some concern about local conditions can
contact the State Department’s citizens emergency center at tel. (202)
647-5225 for the most up-to-date information.

Business infrastructure:

Both Nassau and Freeport boast a wide variety of excellent hotels
and resorts. Although Bahamian hotels are more used to catering to the
vacationer rather than the business traveler, many large hotels have
business centers. Even hotels without such centers will be happy to
arrange for fax transmissions, office and conference facilities, and
other business services. Electricity is 110 v, 60 Hz (US standard).
Taxis are plentiful near hotels and downtown, and radio taxi services
are available. Some taxi drivers are willing, for a prearranged fee, to
spend the entire day with a single customer. Rental cars are also
available, albeit they are far more expensive than the American norm.
Bahamians drive on the left side of the road, as in Great Britain, even
though most cars in The Bahamas are imported from or through the United
States and have left-hand drive (US standard). Nassau has two large,
hospitals, and there is one in Freeport; Nassau’s privately-owned
Doctors Hospital is widely regarded as the best medical facility in The
Bahamas. No special health precautions or vaccinations are necessary.
Tap water is potable but brackish; most Bahamians drink one of the
locally-produced brands of bottled water. As major resorts, both Nassau
and Freeport have a wide variety of restaurants ranging from local
franchises of American fast-food chains to expensive five-star gourmet
places. Local cuisine tends to favor freshly-caught seafood,
particularly using grouper, lobster (locally known as “crawfish”), and
conch (a Caribbean shellfish), but American and ethnic cuisine such as
Chinese and Italian are also available.

Bahamian Holidays:

New Year’s Day (January 1) Good Friday (Variable) Easter Monday
(Variable) Whit Monday (Seven Weeks After Easter) Bahamian Labor Day
(First Monday In June) Independence Day (July 10) Emancipation Day
(First Monday In August) Discovery Day (October 12) Christmas Day
(December 25) Boxing Day (December 26)

Holidays which fall on Saturday or Sunday are usually observed on
the following Monday. Persons present in The Bahamas on the night of
December 25-26 or December 31-January 1 can enjoy a unique cultural
experience by purchasing tickets to the annual junkanoo parade in
downtown Nassau, a carnival similar to Mardi Gras of which Bahamians
are justly proud.

Country Data:

Population: 284,000.

Population growth rate: 1.7 percent.

Religions: Baptist 35 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Anglican
15 percent, Evangelical Protestants 15 percent, Methodist 5 percent,
Church Of God 5 percent, others 5 percent.
Government system: multi-party parliamentary democracy.

Languages: English.

Workweek: Monday through Friday.

Shops are generally open all day Saturday; Sunday closing laws are
strictly observed, although grocers are permitted to open for a few
hours on Sunday. Shops on Bay Street are now also opened on Sundays
when there are cruise ships in port.

US and Country Contacts:

Bahamas US Embassy Trade Related Contacts:

US Embassy Nassau Economic-Commercial Section P.O. Box 9009 Miami, FL 33159 Tel:(242)323-7180 Fax:(242)328-3495

US Department of Commerce Desk Officer for The Bahamas Room H 3021 Washington, DC 20230 Tel:(202)377-2527

US Department of Agriculture Office of International Cooperation
and Development Private Sector Relations McGregor Building Room 343
14th and Independence Ave., SW Washington, DC 20250-4300
Overseas Private Investment Corporation 1615 M Street, NW Washington, DC 20527 Tel:(202)457-7200

Trade and Development Program US Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20523 Tel:(202)875-4357

Bahamas ‘Key Bahamian Government OfficesBahamas ‘

The Bahamas Investment Authority Office of the Prime Minister P. O. Box CB-10980 Nassau, Bahamas

Embassy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas 2220 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20008 Tel:(202)319-2660

Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation P.O. Box N 4940 Nassau, Bahamas Tel:(242)322-3740

Bahamian Consulate Ingraham Building 25 S.E. Second Ave. Miami, FL 33131 Tel:(305)539-9350

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries P.O. Box N 3028 Nassau, Bahamas Tel:(242)325-7502

Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Consulate General
Ingraham Building 25 S.E. Second Avenue Miami, FL 33131
Bahamas Chamber of Commerce P.O. Box 665 Nassau, Bahamas Tel:(242)322-2145

Bahamas ‘Market Research:Bahamas ‘ A complete list of market research is available on the National Trade Database